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But my friend told me…

Jean Medecin
Purchasing a property in France
follows a similar process to buying a place in your own country. The process is a straightforward one and involves placing a deposit, transferring title deeds and swapping the electricity bill into your name. Our 10-step buyers guide explains the purchase process in great details.

However, misconceptions about taxes, inheritance and local builders are commonplace. Many of the initial questions we get asked begin with the words “but my friend told me”, even though the ‘friend’ probably doesn’t own a property in France himself – and may even be a little jealous that you are buying one.

At Nice Pebbles we are property experts. We can answer your questions about purchasing apartments and villas in Nice using the experience of scores of previous clients. And those scaremongering questions from the “so-called friend”? We’re happy to dispel those myths right away!

1) “My friend told me… if you die without a will then the French government will take over your property”.

A common myth, but one without a grain of truth. If you die without a will, the French succession laws will apply which means that your children automatically inherit part of the property. If this isn’t your wish, and you are married, there is a simple way around it. At the time of signing you can choose to adopt the “Universal Community structure” which means that any property assets in France will pass to the surviving spouse only. Not married or have other considerations? Don’t worry, we can work with you and your Notaire, or notary, to set up the most appropriate structure for you.

2) “My friend told me… when you buy a property in France you pay solicitor’s fees and Notaire fees”.

Friend, you gotta get out more. As our ten-step buyer’s guide and glossary of terms make clear, the Notaire is a French solicitor. He or she deals with all of the conveyance services, building searches and official checks on your new property. Notaires are appointed by the French state and undergo rigorous training. When you purchase a property you appoint a Notaire, and we have a list of tried and trusted ones. They all speak English and will be in contact with you throughout the purchase process. Notaire fees are fixed by the French government at around 8% of the property price, although most of this sum is to pay tax and stamp duty which the Notaire pays on your behalf. (In fact, the Notarie’s office receives about 1% of this sum in fees.) You only pay this fee when you are buying a place, not when selling one. This fee is lower when you buy a new build property, around 3% of the property value

3) “My friend told me… it’s best to see as many estate agents as possible to see the maximum amount of property”

We disagree. It’s best to create a relationship with an agency that will take the time to listen to your needs and who won’t waste your time showing you unsuitable property. We have access via the SIA multi listings systems to over 80% of the properties available in Nice at any given moment. So should you see a property that you’d like to visit on another agents’ website let us know and we’ll include it in our tour of viewings. There’s a lot of property out there for sale but your viewing time is precious so let us help you choose the ones really worth visiting!

4) “My friend told me… and when you’ve finally brought your place the yearly taxes are crippling”.

It’s our guess that our friend won’t be sipping rosé on La Promenade des Anglais anytime soon. There are only two local taxes, both of which are very low compared to Britain’s Council Tax or US Real Estate taxes. These are both paid yearly and probably won’t break the bank.

5) “My friend told me… once you’ve bought a place, changing the utility bills etc to your name is a total nightmare because you don’t speak the language”

At Nice Pebbles pride ourselves on our after sales service and of course we will be delighted to look after these allegedly “tricky” changeovers. It’s all part of the service for us to transfer the electricity and water contracts to your name and set up your monthly direct debits so that owning your new property in Nice is as hassle free as possible. We’ll also help with tradesmen, deliveries and anything you need to get your new holiday home set up.

6) “My friend told me… those agents are just sharks. They will tell you anything to get you to buy the apartment, and foreigners will just end up with the property that the locals don’t want to buy”

Like in every profession, some agents give others a bad name. At Nice Pebbles we pride ourselves on giving our honest thoughts and advise on any property. Our reputation depends on it and frankly our pride and growing list of happy customers is more important than a quick sale.

Buyers in a position to buy a second home are rarely stupid. Most have purchased several properties in the past. We wouldn’t insult your intelligence or ours by trying to sell you something that wasn’t exactly right.

In fact, we probably reject more than you would even before we sort out your shortlist. If you are going to rent through us too, we have even more of an interest in making sure things are just right – after all, it’s us who will be dealing with any issues after the sale. More often than not, it is us who are pointing out to you why are certain property isn’t a good buy: perhaps because the living room won’t fit enough furniture for the amount of people the apartment is supposed to sleep, or the shower upstairs doesn’t really have enough height for tall guests.

What breaks our heart is when owners come to us after they have bought their property and now want to rent it. We have talked dozens of clients out of it previously because it is overpriced, the renovation too costly or the rooms weren’t well proportioned. Often we can’t even take the apartments onto our rental books. Even if you have your heart set on something that we haven’t shown you, if you want to rent it, please speak to us before you buy. We promise you will be glad you did, even if it’s just the reassurance that it’s a good buy.

7) “My friend told me… French builders are terrible, drink like fish and are completely unreliable”.

Sadly, a lot of builders all over the world drink like fish and are completely unreliable, but not the ones we use. We have a list of 30 or so honest and competitively priced plumbers, plasterers, decorators, deliverymen and interior designers. Some are French, some are British, while others are Polish, Romanian, Australian and – in one case – American. The vast majority speak fluent English. We have worked with all of them (often on our own apartments) many times. Our contacts in the building trade wouldn’t put themselves at risk by letting down clients of Nice Pebbles.

8) “My friend told me… the locals probably wait to hear a foreign accent then they bump up the price”.

This may be true in Bulgaria, but foreigners are hardly a novelty on the French Riviera. A century ago, apartments along the Promenade des Anglais were owned predominantly by British, Russian and American visitors, and little has changed since then. Purchase a property in Nice today and your vendor is as likely to be Italian, Danish or Parisian as they are Nicois. Our clients are savvy people and the thought that they would purchase a property that seems glaringly overpriced compared with the ten others we have shown them is preposterous. The Nice property market is a vibrant one and our vendors are similarly clued up about buyers’ expectations.

9) “My friend told me… and you can’t even drink the water out of the taps in France”.

Sorry ‘friend’, but most people in Nice drink water straight from the tap. For a treat, many residents may order a bottle of Badoit or Evian with dinner, but many simply order for a carafe d’eau. Local tap water is extremely clean and has a high mineral content, and qualifies as some of the best water in Europe.

10) “My friend told me… I’m just counting the days until I can get my pension, that’s when I’ll really start living”.

Oh dear. Let’s leave living to the rest of us then.

If you see your friend after you’ve purchased a property in Nice, ask him if he knows the translation of ‘completement jalouse’, won’t you?